TIPS & TRICKS

How to tell what kind of walls you have

Almost every DIY project begins with your walls and we're going to show you how to tell what type of walls you have.

Whether you want to mount a TV, put up shelves or create a gallery wall, you need to make sure you’re using the right hardware and techniques to ensure everything is well-secured and will stay looking great.

Here are a few techniques to help you tell what type of walls you have:

Knocking

Yes, really. Simply knocking lightly across your wall can surprisingly tell you a lot about how your house is built. If your walls sound hollow and airy, you likely have drywall, and if it sounds very dense or full, it’s probably a harder material like concrete, brick, or plaster. Tip: most new construction homes are built with drywall while older, more historic homes tend to have the more dense materials.

Tip: most new construction homes are built with drywall while older, more historic homes tend to have the more dense materials.

The tack test

Take a push pin and press it into your wall in a hidden area. Does it go in relatively easily? You likely have drywall. If it takes more effort (or doesn’t go in at all, even with a hammer), it’s probably plaster, concrete or brick.

Check behind outlets

This one is a little more labor-intensive, but remove an outlet cover or switch plate on one of your walls and take a look behind it.

In a drywalled home, you’ll probably see an enclosed electric box and may be able to see the drywall itself cut around the opening. Drywall will look like a chalky gypsum with paper on either side.

With plaster walls, you might see signs of lath (thin wood strips) covered in hard plaster and the wiring may be loose.

Check the attic

An unfinished attic is a great way to get some insight into what your walls are made of. If you get up there and see sheets of material that are uniform-looking with a paper backing, that’s drywall. If you see many thin strips of wood with hard, white material between them, you’ve got plaster walls.

So, what does my wall type mean?

Once you’ve determined your wall type, it’ll help inform decisions on future DIY projects. 

For example, if you’ve got drywall, you’re going to have a fairly easy time installing items like screws or nails into the wall to hang art, but drywall’s lightweight material means heavier items will require wall anchors because the inside of the wall is hollow. With plaster walls, hammering in a nail won’t work because the material behind the surface is so dense, so you’ll likely need to use screws rather than nails to hang artwork.

We’ve got project kits that curate all the hardware you'll need depending on your wall type and if you need to patch a hole in your drywall or plaster wall, we’ve got you covered with that, too!

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